The stage is set for President Donald Trump's impeachment, U.S Sen. Richard Burr said Monday during an appearance at Wake Forest University, but Burr refrained from predicting the outcome of the impeachment proceedings.
Burr, a Winston-Salem native, and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., spoke about impeachment and other issues during their visit Monday to Broyhill Auditorium in Farrell Hall at Wake Forest. Burr is the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Warner is the committee's ranking Democratic member.
"They (the U.S. House) are going to send down something," Burr told a group of about 400 people who filled the auditorium for the event. "The bar for impeachment is extremely high. The test we're going to have will be — does it reach the level for removal from office."
The House will hold public hearings beginning this week in Washington about Trump's actions to have Ukraine investigate a company linked to the son of his Democratic rival Joe Biden. Democratic leaders say Trump's behavior rises is an impeachable offense while some Republican House leaders say Trump may have acted inappropriately, but his actions doesn't rise to an impeachable offense.
"The likelihood is that he (Warner) and I will be jurors," Burr said.
In 1998, Burr was among the Republican House members who voted to impeach President Bill Clinton for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Clinton was then acquitted by the Senate.
“I’ve been through impeachment,” Burr said. “Nobody wins … No party wins. The American people don’t win.”
Burr pointed to an episode during the 2016 presidential campaign in which Trump was heard on an old "Access Hollywood" tape talking about groping women and trying to have sex with them.
"That did not rise to a threshold that people thought he was unqualified to be president," Burr said.
The Senate will be in session for at least six consecutive days if there is an impeachment trial, Burr said. During the trial, the senators are not allowed to make public statements about the case.
Democratic House members will serve as prosecutors, and Trump's lawyers will be his defense attorneys, Burr said. Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court will preside over the trial.
"We basically hear the case and come to a verdict," Burr said.
Warner said the impeachment inquiry will force the senators and the U.S. residents to make judgments.
Warner added that he is upset some of his fellow senators have made public statements regarding Trump's guilt or innocence. He didn't identify any senators by name, but U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham has said that Trump did nothing wrong.
"We need to take a deep breath and step back," Warner said. "The Senate has a constitutional responsibility. This is a serious obligation.
"We should be doing this with a sense of sobriety and seriousness," Warner said.
After the event, Toni Petersen of Winston-Salem said that Burr, like other Republican senators, has declined to make public statements about the impeachment inquiry because they might serve as jurors in the case.
"I think they are right," Petersen said. "As jurors, they should not be talking about it."